Amsterdam ♥

Another long absence from the blog! We are still in the midst of building chaos and living without a kitchen is starting to take its toll. I don’t think I can take many more microwaved meals and takeaway pizzas! Luckily, the husband and I had booked a very timely weekend break in Amsterdam earlier this month and it was the perfect opportunity to escape from all the noise and dust for a couple of days. It is one of our favourite European cities but the last time we went was at least 12 years ago so a return visit was long overdue.

Heathrow pod

{In the driverless pod taking us from the car park to Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Very high tech indeed!}

Hotel Pool

{After a slight mishap where we caught the wrong train at the airport and ended up at Amsterdam South rather than at the Central Station,  we arrived at the hotel and headed straight for the hotel spa complete with pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.}

Hotel bar

{A pre-dinner drink in the hotel bar – we stayed at the Hotel Amrath which had fantastic service and was in a great location.}

Tales & Spirits

{On the first night we had dinner and yummy cocktails at Tales & Spirits.}

Amsterdam

{We spent many hours walking around Amsterdam taking in the sights. The weather was cold but (mostly) dry.}

Park

{The sun came out when we strolled through Vondelpark.}

Droog

{A really cute side table at cool interiors shop Droog.}

Diamonds

{We visited the Gassan diamond factory..}

Foam Photographic

{..and the Foam photography museum.}

Pancakes

{We feasted on pancakes (a must when in Amsterdam) and…}

Restaurant RED

{…ate the most divine caviar, lobster and steak at the very excellent Restaurant RED.}

Breakfast

{A lie-in and breakfast in bed on the Sunday morning…}

Flight home

{…before flying back home to London.}

It was the first time that we had both been away from the children for more than one night. We did really miss them but they had a great time with their grandparents and I think they’re old enough now for us to make a weekend away a yearly occurrence. We’re thinking of Rome next!

 

Advertisements

Five on Friday

IMG_9380

{A takeaway latte and almond croissant to start off yet another grey January morning. No New Year health kick for me although I have been to the gym twice this week so I refuse to feel guilty about the little treats}

IMG_9381

{These lovely colourful bulbs outside our local florist were a timely reminder that spring IS on its way. If our house wasn’t a building site I would have bought some to brighten up the place}

IMG_9387

{I’m enjoying trying out all the beauty products from my Liberty London advent calendar. So far my favourites are the Kiehls body lotion, the Laura Mercier lipgloss and the Dr Sebagh repair serum}

IMG_2888

{I don’t mind the cold as much as the rain and this week we have had some lovely crisp sunny days. I snapped this picture on a late afternoon walk}

amsterdam-barcos01-830x474_830x474

{My husband and I are going away for the weekend to Amsterdam at the start of next month. It will be the first time that we are both away from the children for more than one night but I am confident that they will have a great time with their grandparents. Lots of shopping, sightseeing and dinners/cocktails à deux are on the agenda}

Hope you all have a great weekend! X

 

Linked In

Links I love

1. I’m loving this simple twist on the classic ponytail

2. 25 products under $20 that will change (or at least improve) your life

3. Great tips for organising your closet and some inspirational pictures

4. The best back-to-school backpacks

5. Missing that holiday vibe? Here are seven magical winter travel destinations

6. Find out which everyday habits will improve the quality of your sleep

Five on Friday

IMG_8289

{Clemmie was happy to be back home with all her toys. She and I are off to Sweden again in two weeks’ time to visit my sister and her family.}

IMG_8293

{I’m still on a shopping ban but the kids desperately needed some new clothes for autumn so I went slightly mad in Zara Kids this week. They really have some fabulous stuff for both boys and girls.}

IMG_8299

{Now that Casper is moving up to the junior school, both boys needed new backpacks and school supplies like pencil cases, pens and water bottles etc. I still LOVE shopping for back to school things just as much as I did as a child.}

38c58addf93cfc8cbd3af831210ba49f

{OK. so I’m not allowed to shop but I can still look, right? The planning for my A/W wardrobe is well underway and this jumper from All Saints is top of the list along with a new pair of ankle boots and winter coat.}

eb7788bc5044dbc9f778c23d0c51be6e

{Two weeks of pizza, ice cream, chocolate, cinnamon buns and wine (not necessarily all together) have left their all too visible marks. Time to switch up the healthy eating a gear with the help of recipes such as this delicious-looking one for salmon and chickpea salad. More food inspiration can be found on my Pinterest board.}

Hope you have a fab weekend. It’s a three-day one here in the UK and we intend to make the most of it with plans to go to a food festival and to Ikea to check out new kitchens. What are you up to? X

A Weekend of Misery

tomorrow

Apologies in advance that there will be no positive vibes emanating from this blog today. This has been the most miserable weekend for a very, very long time. As I type this I am really meant to be wandering the streets of Bruges with four of my lovely girlfriends, taking in the sights, going on a river boat, visiting cute little shops and occasionally stopping for a coffee, Belgian waffles and of course sampling some of the yummy chocolate that Belgium is so famous for. Alas, it was not to be. On Wednesday, Clemmie came down with a tummy bug and I should have known then that of course I would be next in line. I won’t go into too much detail but suffice to say that I went to bed on Thursday night with my suitcase packed, passport and Euros in my handbag only to be woken in the very early hours by the most terrible stomach cramps and spending pretty much the rest of night in the bathroom.

Yesterday all day was spent in bed and I was too ill to really do much apart from sleep and listen to the radio. Today I feel a little bit better but now it has really hit home that I have missed my very first weekend away with friends since the kids were born (I have been away for the odd night a couple of times and also some work trips when Cameron was little but not a proper girlie weekend) and I just feel so sad and angry. I did contemplate trying to change my ticket to join the others today but, having not eaten anything since Thursday evening, I just don’t have the energy to negotiate three train journeys by myself.

My husband and kids have been very sweet (although the boys are terribly disappointed that I won’t be bringing back chocolate for them) and I’m well looked after but I just can’t shake the feeling of misery at the moment. But as the quote says, tomorrow IS another day and hopefully there will be other opportunities for weekend breaks coming my way in the future.

I hope you are all having a much, much better weekend than me. X

Home Sweet Home ♥ (So why do I still feel homesick?)

After all the yummy but not necessarily healthy food I've been indulging in over the last two weeks it was nice to start the day with a healthy breakfast of low carb muesli (recipe here), yoghurt and fresh strawberries

After all the yummy but not necessarily healthy food I’ve been indulging in over the last two weeks it was nice to start the day with a breakfast of low carb muesli (recipe here), yoghurt and fresh strawberries

We’re back from our holiday and while it’s nice to be home (despite the mountain of washing and sorry state of our cloakroom – see here), as always I feel like I’ve left a part of me behind. There is a saying in Sweden which roughly translates to ‘Away is good but home is best’, meaning that it’s good to go on holiday but the nicest part is often returning to your home and familiar routine. But what if the place you go away to is also your home or at least used to be?

I was ten years old when my dad was transferred from Stockholm to London and apart from a couple of years in the US and Ireland I have lived in the UK ever since. We were only meant to stay here for 2-3 years but once they were settled my parents didn’t want to leave and despite my father now being retired they still have no plans to move back.

When I was a teenager I had no desire whatsoever to return to Sweden as I thought (rightly or wrongly) that London’s fashion and music scenes where infinitely cooler than anything my home country had to offer. Now that I am older and have children of my own I find myself appreciating my childhood more and more – the fresh air and open spaces, being able to go ice skating and cross country skiing in the winter and swimming in the lakes in the summer.

In an ideal world I would like us to live in Sweden for a year or two so that the children learn to read and write in Swedish and, perhaps most importantly, really embrace the country and culture as part of their own identity. At the moment they definitely think of themselves as more English than Swedish which is hardly surprising as they were born here and have never lived anywhere else. And while they all understand Swedish it is a struggle to get the boys to speak it unless they’re with their cousins who haven’t learned English yet. One of the hardest things is that my sister and I have lived in different countries for the past 18 years as she moved back to attend university and ended up staying. We keep in touch via Skype and email but often talk about how nice it would be if we lived closer, especially now that we both have children.

For now, however, such a big move is not possible as my husband’s work necessitates him being near London. While that may change at some point in the future, I imagine that as the kids get older it will be more difficult to uproot them from their friends, not to mention disrupting their schooling at a crucial stage. I don’t want to relocate permanently though as I love our life here – our friends, our house and our lovely village with its great sense of community.

And it’s not that I want to impose my own nationality on my children but I would like them to feel that they could choose to study or work in Sweden when they get older (there are some benefits over the UK: further education is free and property prices are generally lower). At the same time I like the idea of putting down roots and creating a family home to encompass all their childhood memories from toddlers to teenagers. We have been in our current house for just over six years now and it’s the longest time I’ve lived in one property since I left Sweden.

There are no easy answers but for now I’ve resolved to carry on speaking Swedish to the children, even if they insist on answering back in English, and upholding traditions such as St Lucia and Midsummer. It would be great to visit more often but for a family of five plane tickets are not exactly cheap so at the moment two or three trips a year is probably all we can manage.

Maybe one day we can get our own holiday home somewhere on the coast of Sweden. Something like this would be amazing (a girl can dream can’t she?):

80c3180ddb0771a491bfbb09170bc5de

Fun at Legoland

IMG_4185

We rounded off our holiday with a trip to the original Legoland theme park in Billund, Denmark. We had booked a two-night package staying at the Legoland Hotel, which I was slightly nervous about, having read mixed reviews about it. But I needn’t have worried – the hotel was great, with big spacious rooms, friendly service, decent food and of course Lego everywhere, including Lego gifts for the children and two big tubs of bricks in our room.

All three children in one picture, looking at the camera and smiling. Hardly EVER happens!

All three children in one picture, looking at the camera and smiling. Hardly EVER happens!

Because the ferry back to England doesn’t leave until 7 in the evening, we had two full days at the park meaning that, between us, we went on every single ride. The boys and their dad were keen to go on the bigger roller coasters while Clemmie and I stuck to the trains, boats and gentle carousels although we did meet up at regular intervals so we could all do some activities together. My parents were also with us and the kids even managed to convince them to come on some of the rides, including the pirate ship one where the objective was to shoot everyone with water canons. Needless to say, we all got soaked but luckily it was a sunny day so we dried off pretty quickly.

A great end to a great holiday!

Clemmie's favourite ride, the horse carousel.

Clemmie’s favourite ride, the horse carousel.

Casper took a break from the white knuckle rides to sift dor gold in the 'Western' area of the park

Casper took a break from the white knuckle rides to sift for gold in the ‘Western’ area of the park

Smiling on the Legoland train

Smiling on the Legoland train

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Sweden

20130816-221347.jpg
Many people probably think that Sweden’s culinary delights only consist of meatballs and pickled herring but it’s a well kept secret that the country also boasts some of the best ice cream and pizzas. Good enough to rival the Italians in my humble opinion. Not to mention the melt-in-your-mouth Marabou chocolate bars and the bakeries with their yummy cinnamon buns and flaky buttery Danish pastries.
I’m firmly of the belief that holidays are for indulging and this trip has been no exception. Maybe it’s a good thing that we’re leaving in three days’ time, otherwise I’d end up the size of a house!
image

Sun, Sea and … Shopping!

image

Holidaying in Sweden in August is always slightly risky weather-wise. It was with some trepidation that we decided to return to the same place in Southern Sweden where we spent our summer vacation two years ago. While the scenery is stunning and the house is a stone’s throw from the beach, the summer of 2011 was truly awful and (I kid you not) we had only one day of sunshine. The rest of the time howling winds, rain and temperatures of 15c meant that we were forced to make excursions to museums, indoor play centres and the cinema which, although enjoyable, is not exactly what you want to be doing in the middle of August.
Last year we were desperate for sunshine so we booked a holiday to Mallorca where we would be guaranteed some decent weather. But I do love the Swedish summer (when it doesn’t rain) and it’s important to us that our children feel at home in the country that is a big part of their heritage so we decided to bite the bullet and give it another go this year.

So far we’ve been lucky, with sunny mornings enabling us to swim in the sea and play on the beach until lunchtime. The afternoons have been more mixed but at least we have been able to do outdoor activities like mini golf and I’ve also ticked off a few of the shopping trips on my list. Updating the autumn wardrobe will have to wait until we’re back in the UK, but the interior shops here are amazing and any spare room in the car is filling up fast. At the moment all new purchases are wrapped securely to withstand the return journey so pictures will follow when I’m back home.

Hope you’re all having a great summer! X
20130814-183034.jpg

20130814-183400.jpg

20130814-183504.jpg

20130814-183549.jpg

20130814-183636.jpg

Our holiday so far

It’s hard to believe that we’re already coming to the end of day five of our two week holiday – time really does pass too quickly sometimes.

20130811-214201.jpg

We had a fairly calm crossing on the ferry to Denmark on Thursday (luckily for me as I get seasick very easily). Apart from some squabbling in the backseat, the drive over to Sweden also went very smoothly and we stopped in the southern town of Lund for the first night before continuing our journey to Astrid Lindgren’s World.

20130811-215057.jpg

The park is a tribute to the much-loved children’s author and the many wonderful characters she created. The most famous of these (internationally at least) is Pippi Longstocking and at the moment she’s also three year old Clemmie’s favourite.

20130811-215532.jpg

I love that throughout the day there are performances where a cast of brilliant actors bring the stories to life. Astrid Lindgren’s books are a huge part of my childhood and it’s heartwarming to see my children enjoy them too.

20130811-215938.jpg

The miniature traditional Swedish houses dotted around the park are stunning. I wouldn’t mind living in this one myself:

20130811-220224.jpg

A road trip with three kids can be trying at times but one of the best bits is finding little gems along the way like this golf club with an amazing view where we had lunch on Friday.

20130811-220453.jpg

Or this lovely interior shop which was located next to an old mill that we visited today on our way back to the south of Sweden.

20130811-221558.jpg

This afternoon we arrived in Åhus where we will spend a week with my parents and my sister’s family. After dinner at a beachside restaurant the kids played on the beach with their cousins as the sun was setting, wading out into the shallow water and hunting for jellyfish. A perfect summer’s evening!

20130811-221648.jpg

20130811-221757.jpg

20130811-221840.jpg